Category Archives: Field Day

Thoughts on 2013 ARRL Field Day

Several things occurred to me thinking back on my experiences at two Field Day locations this year. First, while operating CW in a county emergency police communication trailer that was sometimes full of visitors and other operators, I realized how this might have simulated an emergency situation.

There was a lot of noise from many voices of visitors and operators on SSB. Coming prepared with a good set of noise-canceling headphones allowed me to fully concentrate on my efforts contacting a series of very weak stations on 80m.

From the visitors perspective I wished I had been somewhat less intent on making contacts and more engaging with those visiting our Field Day site. I missed opportunities to talk about what I was doing and how it might relate to a real emergency situation and what makes this so interesting and vital to me.

I also realized the importance of proper diet for a long stint at the operating position. This year I worked two 8-hour shifts on CW. In both cases I came prepared with food that kept me nourished but never left me feeling sluggish. Again, in a true emergency situation it’s important to stay fresh and alert especially as the hours roll by and there may not be someone to relieve you at your station. I realize my long shifts were probably somewhat extreme but could happen in an emergency, so I took it as a good test of my ability to handle a long stretch of operating. In one case I worked 2000 to 0400 hours, having just come off an operating stint of 1000 to 1600 with a brief nap in between.

I also learned subsequently that I had my paddle improperly adjusted which caused significant hand fatigue over the course of my two 8-hour stints. I noticed the quality of my fist kept deteriorating as the hours rolled by. I was really struggling to send well, even in short bursts. I was unable to unlock the secret of how to enable the memory function of the rig I was at in one location, so all my sending was done manually.

Several evenings later, while taking copying ARRL code practice the text being sent was a QST excerpt from 2009 about correct key adjustment to minimize hand and arm stress. After practice ended I downloaded the PDF and read the full article which was actually about adjusting a straight key. It turns that the advice offered fits pretty well for paddles as well. So I loosened up my settings and discovered I could send lengthy passages with much greater ease and less muscle strain.

Finally, this field day taught me about the importance of adapting to equipment whose operation was unfamiliar to me. In an emergency it’s likely that operators may not have their own gear, so being able to quickly figure out and adapt to an unfamiliar rig and its interface is important.

2013 ARRL Field Day

Really looking forward to the weekend’s ARRL Field Day activities. As in years past I’ll be working two field days locally. I’ll start Saturday morning at the QTH of Ron – N7CE – in Viola, Idaho with the K7SEL crew, helping set up and getting some CW and digital operating time in. I’m hoping to do some gray line work in the evening as well. The station location and set up at N7CE is great: high on a hillside, good antennas and good gear.

In the evening, I’ll head down into Moscow, Idaho to the Latah County Fair Grounds and join the late night Field Day activities with KD7PH, the Palouse Hills Amateur Radio Association. They’re planning a 2A set up and a GOTA (Get On The Air) station for visitors to try their hand at ham radio. We’ll have hams from the WSU club joining us. Should also have some decent antennas and gear.

Weather is supposed to be sunny on Saturday, maybe less so on Sunday.

There was a really nice write-up on the PHARC Field Day in the Moscow-Pullman Daily News on June 20. They interviewed several PHARC club members (Chris – KF7HXJ, Geoff – KC7QCS, and Tom – KI6DER). They talked about how they got their start in Ham Radio and what they enjoy about it. Nice article and great press for the club and Ham Radio in general.

There was a photographer at our pre-Field Day meeting Wednesday evening who took several photos of the group, but none appear to have made it in the paper.

Field Day 2010 – Day 2 – Moscow, ID

My day started at 0400 PST on Sunday. I promised to work 0400 through station close and site break-down and clean-up with the Palouse Hills Amateur Radio Club.

We were very fortunate to get the use of the county sheriff’s emergency services trailer, which had some amateur radio gear already installed in it.

As it turns out, this particular emergency trailer (see photo below) had never been used until this Field day!

In a way it was fortunate as we uncovered several wiring and grounding issues that we addressed.

This worked out to be a great operating station and was able to accommodate several two-man operating positions throughout Field Day.

In addition, the trailer came with a nice crank-up tower which we put to good use to support some of our antennas. Nice.

One thing is for sure, we are now ready for true emergency operations since we now have first-hand experience with this unit. Next time (or I guess I should say the FIRST time) there is an emergency we’ll be prepared should our assistance be needed to support emergency operations.

This next photo is a look at the tents that were set up for those
hardy souls who stayed overnight at our site. As it turned out, 80 meters really heated up and, at one point the guys cranked out over 100 QSOs in a hour! FB!

The only downside was sleeping on the ground, ah well, all for a good cause, right?

Next day W7NGI made cooked up some amazing pancakes and bacon to get things off to a solid start. Thanks, Ken! And he did it all on a classic Coleman propane camp cookstove.

Someone also brought in some ripe cherries (no doubt from Washington) which made a nice finish to breakfast.

…still not sure what that huge jar of pickles was all about, however…

Here’s a shot of the combination breakfast and break tent set-up that was set up.

That’s KI6DER, PHARC President, taking a break between sessions. BTW, if you ever need coax, he’s your man.

Next, we’ve got a look inside the “shack:

That’s KK7VO notching another contact in the early morning hours. I believe her dog Daisy (just out of view in this shot) was logging for her.  : – )

In the next shot, we’ve got Joe and Ken burning up the band on 40 meter phone. Ken’s got logging duty while Joe’s in the hot seat.

We worked many states from Alaska and Hawaii to Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Massachusetts and more.

We were able to work phone, PSK-31 and, after a fashion and thanks to KE6DWM, we were able to notch a few CW contacts as well, though not how I had anticipated. He was able to get us set up to run CW through his PSK interface to a Yaesu rig. Worked great. Couldn’t use my key since the Yaesu has a mini jack and I had a 1/4 inch jack on my key.

The next photo shows one of the other operating positions we had set up

We also had a GOTA position set up, which was great since we had folks from as far away as Alaska (well kind of) stop by to visit.

In addition KE6DWM’s XYL took and passed her Technician license during Field Day. Congratulations!!

Do we get extra points for that?  : -)

On top of that, she stuck around and made a bunch of contacts at the GOTA position.

Can her General class be far behind?

In this next photo we’ve got a shot of one of the “towers” we erected for our antennas. KK7VO had a 80-10m antenna attached with a nice loading coil near the center.

Although this shot only appears to show a single guy wire, there were two others that kept this pole in place.

It did a good job for us supporting, I believe, 3-4 antennas.

We wrapped things up at noon PST having racked up more overall points than our 2009 Field Day performance, not to mention all visitors we had.

All in all it was, for me, a great Field Day experience.

I’m really hoping that for Field Day 2011, I’m ready with a full, self-contained QRP CW operating position, complete with antenna.

I was the only one in PHARC able to copy code at this year’s field day, so my QSOs got us a few extra points.

That’s all for now.

I’ll say 73 and look to see you all at Field Day 2011!

N7RCS

Field Day 2010 – Day 1 – Viola, ID

We had a fabulous weekend for Field Day 2010. Temperatures in North Idaho were in 70-80F with bright blue, clear skies and nary a raindrop in sight.  Woohoo!

Since I belong to 2 clubs in the Moscow-Pullman area I decided to participate with both clubs this Field Day. So on Saturday I joined my fellow hams in the Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories radio club (K7SEL).

We set up shop at N7CE in Viola, ID. Great location with lots of room to spread out, set up an antenna farm, rigs and other assorted Field Day gear. I arrived at about 0830 PST to get things started.

Here are Joseph and Ron getting a station and logging terminal set up set up in N7CE’s “shack”:

Feed lines run in through the wood insert in the window on the left. Battery power was on the floor, right below the laptop.

We operated phone, CW, and PSK-31 on Saturday and did a credible job, once some minor battery charging issues were resolved.

Got the chance to help set up antennas, rigs, feedlines and more. Really enjoyed it.

Here are a few more photos of set up and operating at N7CE:

Here is one operating position just about ready to go. Just had to run feed lines in from outside.

As for antennas, we had quite a range.

Below you’ll see a nifty telescoping fibreglass pole we made into a 40 meter vertical. Light winds made it a cinch to set up and guy and it did a credible job for us, though not quite as good as the ladder line-fed dipole that was rigged up.

Here’s the fibreglass vertical, ready to go, complete with pink safety strips to avoid “clotheslining” problems. Note the amazing view out beyond.

We would alternate between phone and CW when we rotated operators and loggers. 
We had one visitor to the station, see below, so we had an opportunity to show a non-ham what ham radio is all about and how the Field Day worked.
In the next photo, N7CE takes time to explain what all the fun is about to our visitor, Prasad. 

At about 1700 PST I had to head home at attend to things on the homefront.
Just before I left we took some time to get the 6 meter antenna up for the night crew. 
The next photo shows the 6-meter antenna before we got her raised up. 
Had some great chow, thanks to N7CE and his friend.
This was my first real Field Day experience since I began in ham radio back in the 1960s. I had been to a couple of Field Days but had never actually participated like I did here.  What a blast!
Then I headed home to Moscow to get ready for my 0400 PST wake-up call and rendezvous with fellow Palouse Hills Amateur Radio Club members at the Latah County Fair Grounds just east of beautiful Moscow, ID.
Luckily for me, the fair grounds are in walking distance from my QTH.
For details of my Sunday Field Day adventures read the next post. 
73!
N7RCS over and out.